Without question I have always preferred the version of the Community Shield – the Charity Shield as it was originally known, let’s keep in mind – in which if it ends in a draw, the teams share the trophy. It speaks so much better to the spirit of this match, and what it’s really about. In a world where players kneel down before every game in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, it seems that refocusing on kinder, more noble aspects of football may feel appropriate.
In fact, my embarrassing admission is this: even though we lost in pretty much the exact same way to City only last season, a game I watched as well, I was still somehow surprised when this game went to penalties. My instinctive response was “when did they stop sharing it?”, to which the only correct answer is “a long time ago, dum-dum”.
Coronabrain? Sure, let that be my excuse.
The odd fashion in which last season ended due to the pandemic led to the timing of this match also being unusual, with both teams a mere two weeks before their opening premier league match. Liverpool for the most part looked and felt like the Liverpool that ended the recent campaign, a machine that operates in a very specific way, albeit lacking a finishing touch. Come to think of it, that was becoming a bit of a problem in June, as well. It’s no wonder, really, considering that it is the same team (can we please sign Thiago already? hopeful, curious minds want to know). Arsenal looked somewhat less cohesive, yet highly determined and unquestionably with a sense of direction, continuing to improve under Arteta. While Gunners fans have been, perhaps inevitably, adopting the sort of sarcastic bemusement about their team that we as Reds fans had become quite familiar with over those three decades, it does seem like it is a team that should solidify a hold on a top-four spot this season.
The world-class Aubameyang’s hit was a peach, and his importance to this Arsenal team cannot possibly be overstated. In reality, though, Liverpool should have scored a couple of its own, and Martinez earned at least a gift basket for his efforts (which he would surely donate to a local shelter), especially at denying one Sadio Mane. I suspect that given the same opportunities in the upcoming regular season, the latter would have ended up on the scoreboard. Today it was not to be. Instead, however, we shall rejoice in finally seeing another name go up there, as Minamino at last opened his account with the Reds. It seems that Taki just needed one to go in so it can give him that last bit of confidence he needs to bring us his best, and to have it now before the season starts is gratifying. We can only hope that his attacking threat continues to materialize.
As to the penalties themselves, what strikes me in particular is the impact of having no crowd, combined with the tightening grip of officials over keeper misbehavior. The former seems to give the kickers a bit more mental space, while the latter decreases the effectiveness of the stoppers, maybe ultimately resulting in higher conversion rates. I’d love to see a study of this effect, if one exists.
It was a fun game to watch, and it seems like it was only yesterday that the last season ended. Congratulations to Arsenal for picking up another bit of silverware towards which they seem to have a particular affinity, like the FA cup that they grabbed for themselves again just recently. Having that big break in the spring means we get football back so much earlier than normal, and I’m slowly getting used to having no fans in the stadiums (even if the piped-in crowd noises still feel weird to me).
Can’t wait for the real stuff to get going!